Poet Ruth Ellen Kocher is the director of the creative writing program at CU Boulder.

Courtesy of Ruth Ellen Kocher

Poet Ruth Ellen Kocher casts Martin Luther King Jr., singer Eartha Kitt and even Star Trek’s Lt. Uhura as characters in her latest book. She says "Third Voice" is a how-to book for a modern minstrel show but instead of white actors in black face it captures what it's like to be a black person today. Her book is a finalist for a Colorado Book Award. 

Kocher chairs the English department at University of Colorado Boulder and will become associate dean for arts and humanities there in July. She spoke with Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner. 

From Third Voice, published by Tupelo Press, copyright 2016 Ruth Ellen Kocher. Used with permission

Skit: Pearl Bailey and Eartha Kitt Revise
Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful
Whether we love it or hate it is irrelevant to its worth. We have
heard more women call women whores than we have heard men
call women whores. We have more light than we know what to do
with. Live with it. Some time ago, a Woman asked us for five
women we loved and five women we hated and five women we
hated to love . . . or maybe five women we hated and five women
we loved and five women we loved to hate . . . or both. We haven’t
been able to answer. We’re trying not to sing too easy green and
violet veins meaning moth-winged flower or would it be worse to
say bloom? The shackled hardwood, the ribs of the house, the ribs
of a huge beast, the ribs of a fossil, the ribs of a thing destined to
be stone. We call ourselves Away. Stranded is a place not a thing
Olio 34
A time ago no one smiled in photographs and the absence of a
smile meant that the mouth was serious and so the face was serious
and so the hair and so the arm and so on There was a red velvet
chair Behind the mouth there may have been teeth or may not have
been teeth There was a red velvet chair There may have been an
utterance deep in the throat an echo of the chest a small recessed
word clamoring to traverse the line of teeth the line of lips There
may have been an unnoticed happiness that came from a simple
thing The bread has risen The ice has thawed The cellar is filled
with potatoes There was a red velvet chair A time ago not smiling
in a photograph meant that sepia spoke first meant the corset held
its breath meant a dog had died perhaps perhaps not meant many
rooms perhaps or not meant servitude maybe not A time ago the
smile was inconsistent and could not be trusted There was a red
velvet chair A time ago the smile was an outlaw the smile was an
open curtain the smile was the world seeping in the way a keyhole
allows the outside in though no one sees it There was a red velvet
chair in which no one sat Behind the mouth there may have been
melting snow may have been the violins that tell us what we should
feel There was a red velvet chair where someone would not sit
There may have been a watch that did not tick A time ago sepia
said no posture said no ruffles said no no the chair said no the
phosphorous said stay said still said where can you go
Skit: Paul Robeson on Stein, After
She’s interesting enough to play herself over and over again in indie
films that aim to strike the pose of that generation of interest at the
moment if the profile necessitates a tortured sort of soul though
now she is thin in her good looks her beard grows in dark and
faint balancing the delicacy of her face the exception a naturally
furrowed brow against an obvious masculinity.